Ain't nothing wrong with Quick Cooking when you're busy as I've been lately, but I should clarify what I consider quick. Given that I like to cook as a method of unwinding, I like to spend time in the kitchen. A quick dinner takes under 45 minutes to assemble from prep-to-table, and often it's a one pot dish (minimizing fish-washing time is equally important when I think of making something on the fly). It can be as simple as a soft-boiled egg on a bed of greens, or in this case, Kimchee Fried Rice. It's not as fast as nuking dinner, but I believe we can all afford to put 45 minutes towards what goes into our gullets, no?
Here is what Quick Cooking is not about. It's not about taking a can of something and pouring it over some frozen veg. I think pre-prepared sauces are a total waste of money. Look at the ingredients for a Pad-Thai sauce the next time you're at the grocery store. You'll notice that there's not much to it (tamarind paste, chilis, peanut oil), and there's also a bunch of stuff that doesn't need to be there (MSG, so much sugar!). My motto in the kitchen is "You can do it," because you really can, it will cost less, and you can use the money you saved and spend it on better ingredients.
Start with your pantry. All you need is a few basics. I always have these four ingredients around the house: fish sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil. Keep around some different cooking oils. I like peanut, canola, grapeseed, and olive oil. If you've got any variation of these things, there is a lot you can do, and it won't demand much of your wallet or your time.
When I can't think of what to make, I go back to this version of Kimchi Fried Rice. I often make it for lunch and then go back and make it again for dinner. It's so good, so dead-easy, and very versatile to boot. The virtuous can use healthy brown rice, and the capricious can embellish however they see fit: crack an egg on top, throw in some chopped shrimp, garnish with chopped peanuts. It's not as fast as pressing "Start," but if you make enough for leftovers, that microwave may come in handy afterall.
Kimchi Fried Rice
I always use leftover rice. It's stickier than fresh, fluffy rice, and a good way to clear leftovers out of the fridge. Don't be afraid to use store-bought kimchi, a spicy Korean-style pickled napa cabbage. There's a ton of good varieties at Asian Markets, and if you feel up to it you can always make it yourself. This works really well with Daikon Kimchi, too. I garnish with some peppery watercress, and prefer to make it with a nutty short-grain brown rice.
Ingredients for Fried Rice:
2 cups leftover rice (from 1 cup uncooked rice), short-grain brown or jasmine
2 Tbs. canola or grapeseed oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 inch finger of fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 of a medium onion, diced
1 small stalk of celery, diced
1 Tbs. soy sauce
a splash of sesame oil (no more than 1/4 teaspoon)
a few splashes of fish sauce
1/2 cup of chopped kimchi, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped scallions, plus more reserved for garnish
2-3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Ingredients for Garnishes:
a big handful of fresh watercress, washed and dried
a few sprigs of cilantro
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
(kimchi & and scallions, as mentioned above)
1. Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic and ginger first (yes first, so work fast), and stir about for 30 seconds until fragrant.
2. Add the onion and celery and stir, cooking for about 5 minutes until the onion and celery are softened and turning translucent.
3. To this, add the rice, using the back of your wooden spoon to break up the rice if it's sticky. Add the soy sauce and a few splashes of fish sauce and sesame oil, stir again to incorporate, then cover with a lid and turn the head down to medium and cook for another 2 minutes. Taste to see if it is too your liking, adding more soy sauce and fish sauce if it's not quite there yet.
4. Take the lid off of the wok and turn of the heat. Add the beaten egg and toss again, (if you're worried about the egg being raw, you can always leave the heat on...but do so on the lowest setting possible). The egg will help bind everything together, making for a nice sticky dish. Add the kimchi and scallions, toss again.
5. Divide amongst 4 bowls, and everyone can garnish as they like with the watercress, kimchi, cilantro, and chopped peanuts.
Yields: 4 servings. Keeps for a day, best eaten right away, but also quite good when it's cold (in the way leftover pizza can be).